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Full text of "Flora Indica Vol-I"

44                                    FLOBA INDICA.                   [Ranuncvktce*.
The genus Aquilegia is limited to a few species, all natives of the north temperate
zone. - In Europe, Northern Asia, and North America, they are common in moun-
tain woods and pastures, rising into the alpine region. In India the genus occurs
only in the Western Himalaya and in the mountains of Tihet, to'which at least five
species have heen considered peculiar. We have, however, found that all the Euro-
pean species distinguished-by Linnaeus and subsequent authors occur in the Himalaya.
It has therefore been necessary to submit all these to a critical examination, the re-
sult of which has very unexpectedly been ttylit all the European and many of the Sibe-
rian forms generally recognized bfcloug to one very variable species. We do not
include A. paroifiora, Ledeb., which, judging from the figure aud description, and
from a single specimen, is very distinct; nor A. Ganadensis, L., to which A. Sibi-
rica, Lam,, A. atropvrpttrea, DC., A. Dkvurica, Patr., A.formosa, Fisch., and per-
haps A. lactiflora, Kar, et Kir., ought probably to be referred as synonyms. This
species is universally recognized as distinct by American botanists, and appears
readily distinguished by the exserted stamens, the shape of the petals, and the small,
straight, inflated, and suddenly contracted spurs. A. aerulea, Torrcy, or A. kpto-
ceras, Nutt. non Fischer, is probably a large-flowered form of the same species \ and
even A. hybrida, Sims (Bot. Mag. t. 1221), which has hooked spurs, retains the
other characteristics of A. Cma^enm. None of these varieties have been found in
the Himalaya.
We feel that it is difficult to explain briefly, and at the same time clearly, the
grounds on which we have come to the t conclusion that all the synonyms quoted
below,must be considered states of one very variable species. Our Indian specimens
are numerous, and exhibit many different forms, which it was not difficult to throw
into tolerably well marked groups by their general appearance, with the exception
of a few intermediate specimens. On comparing them with the general herbarium,
it was at once apparent that these groups corresponded pretty closely to the com-
monly recognized species of authors, so that our course * appeared easy. As soon,
however, as we attempted to frame diagnoses which should be applicable not only
to the Indian plants, but to those of Europe with which we had identified them, we
found that the great amount of variation to which this genus is subject interposed
insuperable difficulties.
Authors have availed themselves of four classes of characters to distinguish from one
another the species of Aqutieyia. • 1, The shape of the floral orgaus. 3. The nature
and degree of pubescence. 3. The'height of the stem, the number of its leaves, and
the amount of ramification. 4. The degree of division of the leaves, arid the stalked
or sessile leaflets. Linuccus -described only two European species, A. alpina, with
straight spurs, and A. vulpari*, with hookfcd spurs; but subsequent authors consider .
the pubescence a prominent character, as may be seen by the names vitcosa, glandv-
fata, pubiflom. Both De Candolle and Treviranus, however, have long ago admitted
the inefficacy of this character, and stated their belief that A. mscosa cannot be dis-
tinguished from A\ vvtgarit; and though systematists in general have not followed
thar example, that is only because the wish to make species prevails over the au-
thority of scientific inquirers,—we cannot say over their example, since both the
above-named authors, while stating their opinion that the species are not distinct,
have kept them separate.
The shape of the leaves, though not noticed by Linwcus, has teen relied upon
by Be Canclolle and others, for the separation of A. alpina from A. vuigaris. The
result has been that specimens which would otherwise be referred, from the shape and
size of the flowers, to A. alpina, have been separated from it by more recent authors
ander various names, because the leaves were less deeply cut. Species have even
been distinguished by the leaflets being sessile or stalked. We do not repent the re-
marks which we have already so frequently had occasion to make regarding the great
degree of variation to which the foliage of Ramwculacea, and indeed of all eut-kaved
taffies, is subject: an examination pf any large collection of specimens, or a care-
Ibi observation of .nature, ought to convince every one of the little confidence which